Examining Hospitalization for the Removal of Wisdom Teeth in Australia

A recent study titled “Hospitalisation for the surgical removal of impacted teeth: Has Australia followed the international trends?” by George RP, Kruger E, Tennant M., appears in the Australasian Medical Journal (AMJ) vol. 4, issue 8, pp. 425-430, 2011.

The study looks at a period of six years between 1999 and 2005 in which patients had impacted teeth removed under general anesthesia in a hospital in Australia. The authors state that the vast majority of teeth that are impacted are wisdom teeth (third molars). A total of 37.6% of all oral health hospitalizations over the six years were for hospitalizations. Most of the patients were females with an average age of 21.6. The majority of patients were hospitalized at a private hospital and privately insured.

A total of 47,411 patients were hospitalized in Western Australia for the oral condition ‘Impacted/embedded teeth’ during the six-year study period. A total of 60.8% of the patients admitted were between age 15 and 24. A figure in the paper shows the full age distribution. A total of 86.6% of the patients were hospitalized at a metropolitan private hospital and a total of 74.9% of the patients were insured and were treated at a metropolitan hospital (92.1%).

The estimated costs for all of the patients were over $65 million over the 6 year period. The average cost was $A 1,388 with the average cost increasing a bit over the 6 year period. The average length of stay was 1 day.

In the discussion the authors state

“The highly privatised healthcare provision in oral health makes a contrast to the more managed approach in general health through the influences of Medicare and state and federal policy…Non-Indigenous people are far more likely to be hospitalised for removal of impacted teeth among all age groups.”

It is not clear from the study if the indigenous people do not receive as much treatment for impacted wisdom teeth due to differences in diet, prevelance, etc. or if it is due to generally being more economically disadvantaged with a lack of private dental coverage.

Near the end of the discussion some of the changes in removing healthy impacted wisdom teeth are discussed in the U.K. The authors state that many clinicians continue to remove non-pathological teeth.

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